Dish (Coppa) with Metamorphosis of the Maenads

Bottega dei Lanfranco Delle Gabicce

Pesaro, Sixteenth century

Polychrome maiolica istoriato, 28 x 5.6cm

Inv. 2009

The Galleria Estense, Modena

In the foreground of the inner scene the Maenads transform into trees, as described by the inscription in vernacular Italian on the inner part of the base: ‘de le bacante/ motate in abare’. A cupid soars above them and a marine landscape forms the background, detailed with mountains, clusters of houses on the shore and an island with a lighthouse.

This dish may be a replica of another dish with a similar subject and origin (Modena, Galleria Estense, inv. 2008), differing only in the absence of the cupid and the addition of a seventh Maenad. 

The Bacchanal theme, like the theme of the Labours of Hercules that celebrates the family members by the same name, is particularly dear to the House of Este. The events involving the god and his entourage of Satyrs and Maenads run through the Estense collections of antiquities on archaeological reliefs, sarcophagi, glyptics, bronze statuettes, paintings, sculpture and Renaissance bronzes, achieving its ultimate pictorial expression in the Galleria di Bacco cycles at the Sassuolo Palace.